Tag Archives: car vs. bike

A Typical Tuesday

My commute to and fro today was lovely, other than having to yell “JERK” at some jerk, who honked at me for being in the road and then cut me off to turn right.  I guess I should not be surprised, since some people (*cough* men *cough*) are often jerks in general.   The anonymity of driving naturally magnifies this tendency.  They should get their ridiculous testosterone under control and stop bringing me down.

Anyway, my ride really was (mostly) lovely.  There is finally some relief from the oppressive heat and I can feel autumn trying to break though.  Although I know it’s too soon to get excited, I can’t help it – I love autumn!

How’s everyone else doing?  I’ve been so busy lately, I feel a bit disconnected from my fellow bike commuters out there in internets land.

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LGRAB in Yes! Magazine

Let’s Go Ride a Bike is featured in the upcoming issue of Yes! Magazine, an award-winning, ad-free, non-profit publication that supports people’s active engagement in building a just and sustainable world.  The issue is on building community resilience and one of the features is 8 Crash-Proof Ideas, highlighting people and places building skills now that will come in handy in a future without oil.  We (meaning us and all of you out there) are Resillent Idea 3: Bike Anytime, Anywhere, As You Are.

You can read this part of the article by clicking on the image above.  The issue comes out sometime in the next week or two.  You can purchase it at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, other book/magazine sellers or subscribe here. I highly recommend supporting this intelligent, interesting and unique publication.

Viva le revolution!

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Bulk Grocery Trip

My bulk grocery trips are not as pretty to look at as my farmer’s market bike trips, but I imagine the former are much rarer than the latter in the bicycling world. Of course, Mr. Dottie and I prefer to buy our food at the farmer’s market, but the bulk store keeps us in fancy olives and upscale beer within my non-profit salary.

We’re lucky that the route to Costco is super simple and relaxing – only a couple of miles down a quiet neighborhood street leads us directly to the parking lot.

And the result of our farmer’s market and bulk food trip – dinner!

There’s quite a lot packed into our panniers and my basket, but the ride was no problem. I load my rear rack with a lot of weight without worrying about it, but I keep my front load lighter, otherwise my steering gets squirrely. I also carried a light shoulder bag with my camera and some spinach.

If we owned a car, we would probably say, “eff it, let’s take the car,” so we’re thankful that we don’t have that option. Makes life more interesting :)

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The Good of Bicycling Far Outweighs the Bad

Yesterday there was a blip on the radar screen of my good commutes. On my way to work, I had to call a company and report that one of their transfer trailer drivers passed me within 4-6 inches. I’m not sure why he was in such a rush, because very soon afterward, he pulled over and parked in the bike lane to make a delivery. Lucky for me, this made it very easy for me to read both the company’s phone number and the license plate number, as well as take pictures. Although my hands were shaking, I managed to stay calm and the woman on the phone was nice and helpful. All I want is for the report to be maintained in the employee’s personnel file, in case others complain of his driving. Any employer should take such reports seriously or risk legal liability if their driver ends up hurting someone, especially since there is a law here requiring drivers to pass bicyclists with three feet of distance.

But that was only a blip. I’m so happy when riding my bike around and I adjust – as I must – to the reality of the situation. These photos are from my commute home on Thursday (taken with my new vintage SLR camera).

Look how beautiful riding a bike can be. By the evening commute, all was right with the world again.

My spirits were further lifted by reading Velouria’s post, Everybody Loves a Lovely Bicycle. The pictures are beautiful and she reminds us that “beautiful bicycles can lift our spirits” and make passersby smile. I remember that for every one jerky driver, there are hundreds of considerate ones, including the occasional woman who rolls down her window at a stop light to compliment my basket or ask about my bike, plus all the pedestrians who spontaneously smile when they see my Oma cruise by.

So bike love all around :)

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Bike Cycle: Doomed to Repeat History?

Is the current bicycle boom simply part of a never-ending bike cycle, wherein the press rattles on and Americans ride a little more, but real progress is never made?

I’m contemplating this question after reading an article from 1941 in Click Magazine that I found at a book fair, entitled: “Bike Cycle?  How to Go Places Without Gasoline.”  At first glance, the article seemed to be a bit of vintage fun, like the preceding article, “Your hat in 1941 will show how you feel about the war.”  Step-through frames with baskets!  Women on bikes in skirts!  Men in suits riding to the train station!

However, as I read the article, I realized it was eerily similar to the issues presented today.  Take out the retrograde parts about “men” going to the office and “housewives,” and the piece could have been in the latest issue of Time. The writer seemed very excited about the future of transportation cycling in America, yet 70 years later there’s been no progress.  To me this is horrific in a Twilight Zone kind of way.

Below I present the article in its entirety (apologies to the original copyright holders).  I bolded and italicized the parts that struck me the most and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Bike Cycle? how to go places without gasoline

BIKE CYCLE?  HOW TO GO PLACES WITHOUT GASOLINE

Town and country have both witnessed the return of the bicycle as a pleasure vehicle.  During the Gay Nineties, heyday of cycling, only 10% of the bicycles sold were made for women.  Today women buy over 30% of the bicycles made.  College girls like those on the right helped bring back the bicycle’s popularity. In cities, bicycles must obey all traffic laws.  Bicycle fans want state registration and license tags just like automobiles.

When the phrase “they never come back” was muttered about the American bicycle, the mutterers were muttering too soon. True enough, bicycle sales in America dropped from a high of 1,089,000 in 1899 to 180,000 in 1932. But then the great comeback started. Last year, bicycle sales reached an all time American high – more than 1,300,000 were sold. Cycle paths were built in city parks, and women took the wheel in amazing numbers. As a fun vehicle, the bicycle’s comeback was complete.

"Today, women buy over 30% of the bicycles made."

Now, with gasoline shortages looming importantly on our horizon, the bicycle is making a serious bid for at least some of the jobs being performed by automobiles. It is no longer necessary to release pictures like the one above to make people bicycle-concious. Bike lovers see their two-wheelers usurping most of the duties of the family car – and they might be right.

Men who now use automobiles to drive to the railroad station while they commute from suburb to city daily may follow the lead of commuters like Norman Hill, who pedals two miles from his home to the Maplewood, N.J. station in ten minutes every morning. He parks his bike there all day.

The huge quantities of gasoline now being burned by the cheap second-hand cars many families maintain for children who go to rural and suburban schools can well be saved by sending them to school on bicycles. Bikes are healthier, often less dangerous than cars.

"Suburbanites find they can make two wheels do the work of four."

Housewives who now drive a mile or less to do their shopping may soon find themselves faced with the alternative of cycling or walking to the store. But many American women, like this suburban Pennsylvania matron, find that cycle shopping can be completely practical.

The pleasures of parking and touring the countryside are enjoyed by any bicycle owner who desires them. A pair of shorts are all this girl needs in the way of special cycling clothes. The growth of roadside youth hostels has paved the way for bicycle tours covering hundreds of enjoyable miles.

"...and get an amusing exercise program out of legwork that replaces gasoline."

With the private family car completely eliminated by the fortunes of World War II all over Europe, most people are finding bicycles to be their only form of private transportation.  Gadgets like this side car for Parisian youngsters are becoming more and more common in European city streets.

American schools and factories may soon have to erect bicycle garages like this one in Paris if gasoline shortages on this side of the Atlantic become even remotely as acute as they are in contemporary Europe.  Cycling enthusiasts say this will make for healthier Americans.

"Bicycles have already replaced automobiles in Europe"

Prominent Americans love bikes.  Bicycle enthusiasts take great pride in the prominent Americans who ride bikes.  Civilian Defense Director La Guardia must have seen this picture of Grover Whalen before he appointed him director of the gas-saver drive.

L to R: Lana Turner, Wendell Willkie, Ann Rutherford, Grover Whalen

Click Magazine, 1941

What do you think – Fun piece of vintage bike history or terrible sign of the status quo?  I’m afraid that in another 70 years another article like this will be written and nothing will have changed.

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LGRAB Safety Tip #1

Witnessed this morning on my way to work while waiting at a red light:

  • Guy zips by on fixed gear; screeches to halt in front of crosswalk.
  • Performs track stand, showing off bike tattoos on each calf.
  • While our light is still red, inexplicably jets into intersection of busy 4-lane road.
  • Makes it across one lane before coming thiiiiis close to being creamed.
  • Slams on brakes inches from car.
  • Driver going through intersection with green slams on brakes.
  • I stare in horrified shock.
  • Bike guy throws middle finger high in air in indignation.
  • I am even more horrified.
  • Every driver and pedestrian who witnessed the scene now hates bicyclists.
  • Five seconds later, light turns green and I continue on my merry way to work.

LGRAB safety tip #1: before riding, remove head from arse.

LGRAB safety tip #2: stop at red lights.

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Simple Pleasures

Sustenance and transportation are two necessities of daily life. People need to eat and need to get from one place to another. How one chooses to fulfill these needs greatly affects one’s life. Our society in general is going about it all wrong. Pleasure, health and happiness can be derived from these tasks. I don’t mean by eating steak and driving a porsche; I’m not talking about anything money can buy, but about simple pleasures.

Just some thoughts after another beautiful Saturday at the farmer’s market, eating fresh food in the shade of old trees and then hopping on the bikes for a quiet ride home. The price for hours of entertainment, quality time, exercise, transportation, fresh air and happiness – nada. For local food (cherries, cheese, arugula, croissant, mushrooms) – ten dollars per person.

I’m no master of simple living, but I know what makes me happy. Bicycles and fresh food are so obviously good, their near-invisibility in society boggles the mind.

What is your take on simple pleasures and how they affect your life?

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Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Yesterday morning, I fell in with a group of cyclists commuting to work, about six in all. Half-way to work I lost them, as they ran all the red lights and I stopped for all the red lights. As I was waiting for one red light by myself, the group already far ahead, three guys on bikes zipped by me, barely pausing for the light. A woman in a small SUV waiting beside me (about my gram’s age) said, “It’s so nice to see one bicyclist follow the rules of the road – and look so cute doing it. I love your basket!”

My gut reaction was to protest and stick up for cyclists. I could have said, “And it’s so nice to have one driver be nice to me.” But I did not want to be snarky with the well-intentioned woman and, really, there was not much I could say in defense of bicyclists, given the display witnessed moments earlier.  Instead I answered, “Thanks!  I wish more cyclists would.”

We as cyclists need to shape up. There are too many of us in Chicago to continue ignoring traffic laws, especially red lights. I understand the argument that sometimes it’s safer to jump a light instead of idling among trucks, and I’m not going to pretend that I never treat a red light as a stop sign (and don’t even get me started on stop signs). However, there are too many safety, legal and PR reasons not to ignore red lights and general traffic regulations in the city.

On the bright side, lots of bicyclists ride safely and conscientiously. This morning’s commute was totally different from yesterday’s, as the mini-pack of female cyclists I fell in with stopped at all red lights and fostered a calm and happy atmosphere. However, the bad apples are the ones who stand out the most, be they bicyclists or motorists.

What do you think about your city – is it reaching a critical mass where lawless cyclists are embarrassing? Is it time to start putting more pressure on other bike riders to embrace both the rights and the responsibilities of the road? And if so, how do we avoid playing into the hands of the crazed, mouth-foaming masses who use cyclists’ red-light-running to excuse the most abhorrent driving behavior?

Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know.

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Jerk Season

I am tired. Of aggressive and ignorant jerks. Guys in Land Rovers who pass dangerously close. And then roll down the window to lecture me on how I’m not supposed to be riding in the middle of the (small one-way) road. Because they are faster. Therefore I should move over. Never mind that riding up against parked cars is the most dangerous way to ride in the city. They need to pass me and that’s all that matters. Because they are so fast, even though somehow I catch up with them at the red lights.

They tell me to “share the road.” Which means stay the fuck out of their way. Because they have “their side” and I have “my side.” Which apparently is the gutter.

I wish. I wish I wish I wish that these guys (always guys) would leave me alone to get home in peace. And that I could stop my blood from boiling every time they bother me. Stop myself from reacting. Why do I let them get to me?

I am a woman peacefully riding a happy bike. In a dress. In the dark. In the rain. In my neighborhood. What is their problem?

Five months of daily winter riding – not one problem with a driver. Now in the summer all the jerks come out. Maybe Chicago is too aggressive for me. This type of scenario should not be normal.

{I was planning to use these pictures to talk about my lovely ride to see the Evelyn Evelyn / Amanda Palmer show. Too bad all of that changed one block from home.}

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Bike the Drive 2010: Chicago Closes Highway for Cyclists

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if cities were built to support bicycles, rather than cars? For five hours every year, Chicagoans experience this utopia during Bike the Drive.

Bike the Drive is an annual event organized by the Active Transportation Alliance, during which the city closes the main scenic highway through the city, Lake Shore Drive, to motor traffic and opens it up for cyclists. Nearly 20,000 bicyclists participate!  The huge turn-out demonstrates how hungry people are for cycling, if only they could feel safe on the streets.

Lake Shore Drive via Bike

Lake Shore Drive via Bike

The massive number of participants is amazing, and also the diversity of participants. Sure, there are lots of roadies and daily bike commuters, but also thousands of families with children, middle-aged suburbanites and elderly couples. I imagine a lot of people dust off their old bikes specifically for this event. Hopefully, the ride will remind many of how much fun it is to ride a bike and inspire them to continue to ride.

I rode a total of 50 miles - this dress was airy and hid my padded bike shorts

Greg at the south end of the route, Museum of Science and Industry

Riding companions Dean and Elizabeth

After the ride participants enjoyed a festival in Grant Park, complete with a pancake breakfast and live music.

Grant Park Festival

Grant Park Festival

Again, I must emphasize that this event demonstrates how many people would love to ride bikes more often, if only they felt safe doing so in the road.  The following videos convey more than words can say.  The first video is from last year; the second is from this year. The endless flow of bicycles in both was consistent along the entire route.

For another video of biking the Drive, see here via Steve Vance.

Read Elizabeth’s (pictured above) report at Bike Commuters.

This is totally going down as my group ride for the Summer Games :)

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Deep Breaths

Riding in Chicago rush hour traffic can really raise my blood pressure, especially when it seems that every person drives a huge SUV while fiddling with a blackberry and passing within inches of me. Even after two years of daily riding, this still gets to me a bit too much sometimes. Today during my evening commute, I had to pull over for some deep breaths and springtime appreciation.

A few minutes later I returned to the road feeling calm and refreshed. I can’t control how others drive and I can’t control the appalling lack of bicycle infrastructure, but I can control my own moods. Sometimes I literally have to stop to smell the flowers.

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Getting Serious About Bicycling Safety

How much of the push for bicycling is about encouraging people to be braver, rather than actually fostering a safe and welcoming environment for cyclists?

An editorial in The Times (UK) by Janice Turner, which Copenhaganize brought to my attention, has me pondering this question. My observation is that there are more cyclists on the road now than before, but the cyclists are overwhelmingly of the type expected to engage in perceived risky behavior – young males.

An Example of Chicago's "Bicycle Infrastructure"

Chicago's Bicycle "Infrastructure"

This morning a pack of cyclists accompanied me on my commute. They resembled a rag-tag peloton, shuffling for position, weaving around traffic and speeding through intersections. Of the dozen or so cyclists in my proximity, not one was a woman and not one appeared to be wearing regular work clothes. The evening commute featured a few women. (You can read more about my regular commute here.)

Mind, I am not criticizing this group. I appreciate them and their presence on the road. My criticism is for a transportation system that fails to accommodate a more diverse – and risk averse – group of people on bikes.

As individuals, Trisha and I don’t have the power to build infrastructure or enforce traffic laws. Therefore, the best we can say is that, despite the awful state of cycling infrastructure in North America, the U.K., Australia, et al, you should ride your bike and enjoy yourself. While we show that cycling is not as difficult and dangerous as it seems, mixing it up with cars every day still takes courage. For every woman who tells us that our blog inspired her to bicycle regularly, there must be several others who were inspired to try, but gave up due to fear.

Even the most conscientious and experienced cyclist is not immune to danger. For example, last week my husband Greg was taking the lane to pass a stopped bus safely, when a car driver squeezed around him, hitting his arm with the car’s side mirror and causing his body to bang against the passenger door. The woman sped away. Thankfully, he was able to regain his balance and escape injury. The responding police officer was respectful, but said there was nothing they could do without a full license plate number and witnesses. That woman cared so little for the man I care for the most, apparently knowing she could behave this way without legal consequence. Even if the police could have tracked her down, we would be lucky if she received a warning ticket.

Of course, no one is immune to danger. Life can be risky, and certainly I would not put bicycling on a list of high-risk activities. If I thought otherwise, no way would I be out there on my bike every day. I am risk-averse. However, there is so much that could be done to make bicycling safer, both objectively and subjectively.

I love bicycling. I usually feel safe riding in Chicago. I hope this blog helps counter the negative and ugly rhetoric that so often accompanies bicycling discourse in media and society at large.  But every now and then, inevitably, I am frustrated and disappointed by the failure of governments to provide a safe place for all road users.

Many citizens have answered the call to be braver, and in the process have found themselves healthier and happier. There is a beautiful momentum of regular people on bicycles, and failing to acknowledge our growing numbers with a comprehensive plan to foster a safe and welcoming environment would be criminal.

I worry over Ms. Turner’s conclusion in the Times article that “a big fat flaw at the heart of democracy is that politicians will never invest in the long term if voters’ initial inconvenience and expense are not rewarded with results before an election.” If that is always the case, we will never move forward.

As of now, we are here. Whether in dresses or lycra, on Dutch bikes or fixies, we are all getting around in a way that benefits ourselves, society and the environment. Will the government embrace us or desert us?

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Bulk Groceries on a Bakfiets

Some readers asked for more information about the shopping trip I made with the De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets.  I’m happy to oblige.

As I mentioned before, last week I ran into my friend Elizabeth talking to the shop owner, Jon.  When I commented on how cool the Bakfiets looked, he said I could borrow it, if I ever needed to. My ears perked and I soon took him up on the offer for a trip to Costco. Such is the life of a car-free bargain hunter.

For those who are not familiar with Costco, it’s a store where you can buy products in bulk for incredibly low prices, after paying a modest annual membership fee.  Everything is really big there.  I recently joined to reduce our household grocery budget, after I realized they carry many of the organic products we like.

These pictures don’t portray the full magnitude of the shopping trip.  I filled the super-sized cart with stuff like 12-pound bags of rice, 5-pound bags of frozen broccoli, gallon jars of artichokes, and 24-count cases of bottled  micro brew.  Mr. Dottie kept saying that there was no way everything would fit in the bike.  Once we wheeled everything outside and prepared to load the box, I, too, began to worry.  A few minutes later, however, the cart was empty and the box still had room.  I don’t think we could have fit it all in the trunk of mid-sized car!  With the Bakfiets set in 2nd gear, the ride home was slow, but did not require much more effort.

(My cats have no opinion on the box bike, but were happy with the boxes it brought home to them.)

Discovering how much a bike could carry was an eye-opener!

We’ve discussed grocery shopping on a bike before, but this takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Anyone else make trips like this by bike? Or carried other kinds of large loads?

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Bicycles on a Budget

We all love beautiful bicycles, but what if you’re on a tight budget?

At Let’s Go Ride a Bike, Trisha and I aim to show how transportation cycling can be simple, stylish and fun. A major factor of “simple” is low cost – the only lower cost transportation option is walking, which we also enjoy, but it takes quite a bit longer. A major factor of “stylish” is a good-looking bike, and a major factor of “fun” is a bike well-built enough to free you from the stress of bad brakes and uncomfortable seating positions.

At some point, “simple” (i.e. inexpensive) may seem to conflict with “stylish” and “fun.” True, there is a vast array of bikes to choose from at all different price points. However, with the recent emphasis on cycle chic, someone looking to purchase an attractive city bike may feel that the options are limited to relatively expensive Dutch bikes and elusive-in-reality pretty vintage bikes. Our own Beautiful Bicycles series is skewed toward these options.

Reader Carrie wrote us today seeking advice on a sub-$500 bike to ride around the suburbs, with and without her kids on their own bikes, “Perhaps a little more girly, one that will give me that Mackinaw Island feel, basket in the front, do a little grocery shopping, go to the library, pool, etc…” In the comments to the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe post, reader Katherine laments the apparent lack of city bikes that fit in a student’s budget. Others have chimed in with ideas, so I wanted to move the conversation up here for more attention and input.

This we know for sure – one can embrace the simple bicycling lifestyle without a lot of money. Although we now have sleek rides, our beginnings two years ago were humble. Trisha began bike commuting on her childhood Schwinn, which her grandparents kept in their garage for ten years. I bought a $400 Jamis Commuter with my tax stimulus check, and boy did that seem like a lot of money at the time.

Let’s put our heads together – collectively we are a massive resource! – and come up with ideas and solutions. Later, I can put everything together as a guide for all future cash-strapped bike lovers.

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Chicago Loves Bikes!

Chicago loves bikes.  It’s official.

My morning commute yesterday felt like a group ride!  For more than half of the way, I was in a line of 9 cyclists going down the bike lane.  Our spontaneous conga line caused stares, double-takes and smiles.  How could people not consider cycling as a valid form of transportation after seeing so many bikes all around them?  Snowball effect – more riders beget more riders.

On the way home, I spotted my friend Elizabeth.  She had pulled over to chat with the owner of De Fietsfabriek, so I pulled over and joined them, and then we rode home together.  On the way, we saw three bike cops ticketing a van for being parked in the bike lane.  Overhead in a stern voice as we passed, “See, all these bicyclists have to go in the lane around you.”  Today on Streetsblog I saw this video to train Chicago bus drivers how to interact with bicyclists.

I feel that everything is coming together to create a real place for cyclists in Chicago.  The cyclists themselves: out in droves.  The drivers:  expecting cyclists and behaving respectfully.  The infrastructure: far from perfect but following the 2015 Bike Plan and better than almost all other North American cities.  Law enforcement, city government, and Da Mayor: working for us.  The sun: shining down approvingly on all of it.

My giddy optimism is so bright this week!

Do other Chicagoan have thoughts on this?  Bicyclists in other cities – how do you feel about your place on the road and in the community?  Any other optimists out there?

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Roll Models: Catherine and Her E-Bike

If you hang around here, you’re probably already familiar with the awesome Catherine of The Freckled Diaries. We asked her to share her bicycling story and tell us more about her cool bikes.

Brief introduction:

I’m Catherine, a librarian working on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  I live in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia–a small city just on the other side of the Potomac from DC.  I own two bikes–one regular and one electric and I’m in the final stages of going totally car-free and I’m excited about it!

Catherine with her Electra Amsterdam

A little about my bike history:

I was big into bike riding as a kid, particularly from ages 10-14, when I pretty much lived on my bike. I had what felt like free reign to the whole universe, but in retrospect, the outer limits of what was allowed was a mile and a half away. It didn’t matter though because my school, after school activities, most of my friends, the YMCA, the library, playgrounds, etc were in this 1.5 mile circle around my house so, for a pre-teen/young teen, that may as well be the whole world. My bike riding came to an abrupt stop at about age 14 when I started high school in a town 10 miles away and I outgrew my pink Schwinn. This being the mid-90s, it was replaced with a mountain bike. I hated that bike. I didn’t like the way I felt riding it, but because I didn’t know any better, I figured it was because I had outgrown bikes. In retrospect, it was the hunched over feeling, the perched too high feeling, the handle brakes (as opposed to coaster brakes which I still prefer) that I hated. I think I rode that thing twice.

A Reintroduction to bikes and the Electra Amsterdam:

Fast forward a double-digit number of years and I find myself living in Old Town. It’s pretty much the perfect city environment for bike riding: streets on a grid, not heavy or fast traffic, everything you need within 2 miles, extensive trail network all over Northern Virginia and DC to get elsewhere. I bought an Electra Amsterdam with the intention of riding it around town for errands, getting myself to the Metro station, etc. I thought maybe I’d take it out on the trail every now and again, but at the time I was heavy and not physically fit and “cyclists,” particularly those out on the trails, seemed like such athletic people that I couldn’t really imagine doing much more than scooting around town.

I quickly learned that I need a better imagination.

The bike commute:

When my bike arrived in March, I immediately fell back in love with the freeing feeling of cycling, and found myself inventing errands to do so I could spend more time on the bike. After a few weeks, I took to the trail to see how far I could make it, and after doing that a few times (by mid April) I realized that I was 3/4 of the way to work and that I really could make a go of bike commuting. After dealing with a broken foot (minor setback), I started bike commuting twice a week in early June.

The commute is about 10 miles each way, and is largely flat but does have a few short but steep hills and one very seriously large and steep hill at the end. (Here’s a video I made of the commute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvYI2PYivw8). It’s a great ride: a bit of Old Town streets, then a trail all the way up and across the Potomac, a sidewalk/trail to the Washington Monument, then a straight shot up the National Mall to Capitol Hill. It also takes me past two rugby fields, which I particularly like because there’s frequently a match in the spring and summer evenings. I love rugby and rugby players, so it’s kind of an ideal situation for me :).

Catherine with her e-bike

My e-bike decision:

A combination of the time factor, my fitness level and various logistic concerns made a daily commute not really workable for me. I thought about it more and more and realized that if I got an electric bike, I could bike commute every day and completely replace my car with the combination of the bikes, Metro and Zipcar. By early August, I had my e-bike (an Ecobike Elegance) and began bike commuting every day–most days with the e-bike and some with the Amsterdam. I still consider the Amsterdam my main bike; it’s all I use for everything but the longest of rides, and I frequently take it on Metro to get to/from farther-flung friends’ houses. The e-bike is more the utilitarian commuting beast.  Either way, I haven’t driven my car since September and have its sale in the works.  All in all, the sale of the car will cover the cost of both bikes, and between insurance, gas and maintenance (plus the ability to rent out my parking space), I’ll be saving/earning almost $5000/year (the parking space is worth a pretty penny ’round these parts).

More about the electric bike:

About e-bikes….they introduce a level of complexity into the situation but I’m really a proponent of them. Mine works in two ways–one by “turn the handle, bike goes” (the throttle option) and by pedal assist option–you pedal and the bike “senses” the effort you’re putting in and matches it. Most of the time, I use pedal assist because that’s what comes naturally to me and it doesn’t drain the battery nearly as much. I use the throttle mainly to help starting from a red light (particularly if I’ve forgotten to change gears before stopping!), or every now and again for a little “daredevil” boost of speed.  Most e-bikes work in a variety of different ways (some allow the cyclist to select the percentage of assistance for pedal assist, others are throttle only, some regenerate the battery when coasting/breaking). I know that they’re a little “controversial”, mainly because of the perceived “laziness” factor, but I think that this quote from a recent New York Times article about e-bikes in the US addresses that nicely (and coincidentally comes from my brand):

“Four years ago, we encountered many people saying, ‘Oh wow, we are so lazy, we need motors on our bikes’ ” said Scott Shaw, president of EcoBike USA, an e-bike maker in Southern California. “Now people are understanding and saying, this is more a utilitarian vehicle for commuting and getting outside on two wheels rather than four.”

I think it’s really important to recognize that not everyone is willing or able (physically, or time-wise) to commute, or otherwise travel daily by regular bike. While e-bikes are not as simple or “green” as regular bikes, and don’t provide the same level of exercise, they are far simpler, more sustainable and provide far more exercise than cars and public transportation. I think they’re a great option for that large segment of people who “would cycle to work but….”. I think that the more we embrace (or at least not dismiss) e-bikes, the more we’ll see bikes being thought of and used as transportation rather than “just” recreation.

So that’s it! If anyone’s ever in the DC area and wants some tips on where to go, what to do (or even a personal tour of the Capitol– a little staff perk), drop me a line!

Thanks so much for your inspiring story, Catherine! Visit Catherine at The Freckled Diaries.

Her story contains a common thread that also runs through my and Trisha’s stories: that of abandoning the bicycle in early teenage years, only to rediscover as adults the fun of riding a bike. We are curious to hear who shares this experience. Or has anyone ridden bikes without pause from childhood up through adulthood? If so, what kept you from falling into the societal trap of trading a bike for a license? On the other end of the spectrum, has anyone picked up a bicycle for the first time in adulthood, having never ridden as a kid?

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Mobii Trike

When I visited Copenhagen Cyclery this weekend, I also test rode the Velorbis Mobii Trike. Yay, trike! I’ve been wanting to test ride a three-wheeled beast for some time now. When I wrote about the WorkCycles Bakfiets a couple of months ago, I mentioned that I could not know for sure how I felt about it without riding a trike for comparison.

The Mobii (love the name!) comes in one size and two powder-coated colors: orange and gray. Designed and handmade in Denmark, this thoroughly modern, steel-framed stunner has the power to erase whatever old-fashioned connotations the word “tricycle” has.

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Scenes From My New Commute

My new commute is not very different from my old one.  The biggest difference is that my office is not by the lake, so it makes sense to take city streets the whole way instead of the Lakefront Trail.  The other big difference is that  I don’t have to ride through downtown.

The streets I take have either bike lanes or marked shared lanes.  As you can see below, I’m able to slide past car traffic in the bike lane.

Car Traffic

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America Needs Traffic Justice: Pedaling Revolution

I read the book Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes soon after it was published in the spring. I was going to write a review, but then David Byrne and the New York Times scooped me. Suffice it to say that anyone interested in reading this blog also would be interested in reading the book.

Senior Crossing Street in Miami Beach - PBIC Image Library

Senior Crossing Street in Miami Beach - PBIC Image Library

Mapes brings up many interesting points in the book – the kind that made me read and re-read, fold down the page, and want to talk about it with someone. I picked up my dusty copy this morning and started flipping back through the folded pages. My mind started sparking again, so I thought I would explore these ideas more through discussion here.

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Chicago’s Ride of Silence

The ride of silence stopped by five peoples’ ghost bikes in Chicago: Clinton Miceli, Tyler Fabeck, Blanca Ocasio, Amanda Annis, and Isai Medina. I think the last death in the city was nearly a year ago, Clinton Miceli. A driver killed Clinton by opening his door into traffic, which stuck Clinton and threw him into the path of an oncoming car. This happened in June 2008, during Chicago’s Bike to Work Week. Even though I did not know him, I had to keep my office door shut most of the day after reading all the news stories because I could not stop crying. He was so young (22) and seemed like such a nice guy. At that time I’d been riding to work for only a week and had to ask myself, “Am I going to ride tomorrow? The day after?”

Clint's Ghost Bike during Ride of Silence

Clint's Ghost Bike during Ride of Silence - photo by Don Sorsa

Obviously, I kept riding. For one, I love riding too much to stop.  Also, the streets will be made safer the more people ride bikes. Cars are far more dangerous than bikes and cars put not only the occupants at risk, but anyone else who happens to be on the street.

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